Every year, more and more plastic and trash enter the ocean, threatening the lives of the animals that call it home. Sea turtles, who happen to be some of the most beloved and endangered species on the planet, are particularly at risk from this onslaught of ocean debris.
Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles
Whales, and other marine mammals, and more than 1 million seabirds die each year from ocean pollution and ingestion or entanglement in marine debris. Marine debris is manmade waste that is directly or indirectly disposed of in oceans, rivers, and other waterways.
Most trash reaches the seas via rivers, and 80% originates from landfills and other urban sources. This waste, which is also consumed by fish and can entangle sharks and damage coral reefs, tends to accumulate in gyres (areas of slow spiraling water and low winds) and along coastlines.
There are 5 major ocean gyres worldwide. In the Pacific Ocean, the North Pacific Gyre is home to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, a large area that is approximately the size of Texas with debris extending 20 feet (6 meters) down into the water column. It’s estimated that this “plastic island” contains 3.5 million tons of trash and could double in size in the next 5 years.
Jellyfish, plastic bags, balloons; these all look like food to a hungry sea turtle. But plastics and trash don’t belong inside a sea turtle or in the ocean at all. They can lead to a number of environmental problems. They are especially dangerous for marine animals that can become entangled or accidentally ingest these items while feeding. Once ingested, the plastic items can cause a variety of issues. Digestive tracts can become blocked, which can lead to starvation and death. Over 100 million marine animals die each year due to marine debris, according to the Sea Turtle Conservancy. And more than half of the world’s sea turtles have ingested some plastic or human trash, according to a University of Queensland study.
Ocean Plastic & Sea Turtles
Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales, and other marine mammals, and more than 1 million seabirds die each year from ocean pollution and ingestion or entanglement in marine debris. Marine debris is manmade waste that is directly or indirectly disposed of in oceans, rivers, and other waterways.